Marc A. Thiessen

Washington D.C.

Marc Thiessen writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor.
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MARC A. THIESSEN COLUMN

Advance for release Friday, April 16, 2021, and thereafter

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By Marc A. Thiessen

WASHINGTON -- In his speech Wednesday announcing the United States' retreat from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden noted that the 9/11 attacks "sparked an American promise that we would 'never forget.'" Well, apparently Biden has forgotten the epic disaster he unleashed in 2011 when he was in charge of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.

That catastrophic decision created a vacuum that allowed the Islamic State -- which at the time, CIA Director John Brennan explained in 2015, had just "700-or-so adherents left" -- to regroup, reconstitute itself and build a caliphate the size of Britain. They unleashed a frenzy of terror -- summary executions, women and children buried alive, people crucified, American journalists beheaded, and the enslavement and mass rape of Yazidi women. The rampage of violence was not contained to Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State spread its murderous tentacles across the globe, carrying out 143 attacks in 29 countries that killed more than 2,000 people and injured many thousands more. And we were forced to send American troops back to deal with the resurgent terrorist threat.

In a November 2019 Wall Street Journal interview, Biden admitted that the decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq "was a mistake" and claimed that as vice president he had tried to keep "a residual force" stationed there. This is revisionist nonsense. Biden was ebullient as he presided over the withdrawal of the last American troops, and even called President Barack Obama from Baghdad to thank him "for giving me the chance to end this goddamn war." In that same interview, Biden went on to criticize Trump for his decision to withdraw the small contingent of U.S. forces in Syria and not leave a residual force there. "We don't have to have 100,000 troops stationed anywhere," Biden said, but "when we leave a vacuum, like he's leaving it, it creates significant opportunities for difficulty, including what you see right now in the Middle East."

So, Biden admits that the complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was a mistake, and chastised Trump for his withdrawal from Syria. Yet now he is withdrawing the "residual force" of U.S. troops in Afghanistan? And a residual force is exactly what it is. The U.S. deployment in Afghanistan is a mere 2,500 troops, fewer than are stationed in Spain (about 3,000), the United Kingdom (9,000), Italy (12,000), South Korea (28,000), Germany (35,000) or Japan (50,000).

The U.S. forces in Afghanistan are not nation-building. They are not policing the country. They are not even fighting a war. They are training, equipping and enabling Afghan forces who are fighting our enemies for us, while collecting intelligence and carrying out occasional strikes against terrorist targets. According to Stars and Stripes, last year four Americans were killed in action in Afghanistan, "making for the lowest number of U.S. combat deaths in the country in a calendar year since the war began in October 2001." But that small contingent of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, together with some 7,000 NATO forces, has outsized benefits -- preventing the Taliban from overthrowing the pro-American government and turning the country into a terrorist sanctuary again.

The day before Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, his administration announced that it is increasing the number of troops in Germany -- reversing Trump's decision to withdraw some 12,000 forces from that country. So, Biden is withdrawing all U.S. forces from a country where there is an active terrorist threat, but surging forces into a country where our troops have been stationed since 1945 to prevent a Soviet tank invasion across the Fulda Gap? The Soviet Union no longer exists. The Taliban and al-Qaeda do.

Worse yet, nothing terrorists do will reverse our planned exit. U.S. officials say our Afghan withdrawal "is not conditions-based" because Biden "has judged that a conditions-based approach . . . is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever." In other words, Biden has given the Taliban a green light to launch an assault on Kabul, install a radical Islamist emirate and invite al-Qaeda to restore its lost sanctuary.

Perhaps worst of all, Biden has tied the U.S. withdrawal to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks -- turning that solemn day of remembrance into a victory celebration for the terrorists. It is a victory the enemy predicted from the start. After he was captured, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told his CIA interrogator something prophetic: While the United States may enjoy some fleeting battlefield successes, Mohammed declared, in the end "we will win because Americans don't realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting."

Two decades after 9/11, Joe Biden is making KSM's prophecy come true.

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Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

MARC A. THIESSEN COLUMN

Advance for release Wednesday, April 14, 2021, and thereafter

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By Marc A. Thiessen

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden promised to usher in a golden age of bipartisan cooperation, but instead he is showing a reverse Midas touch -- taking issues that once united Republicans and Democrats and making them partisan and divisive.

Until Biden came along, every single covid-19 relief bill was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses. Congress passed three covid relief packages in March 2020 with margins of 96-1, 90-8, and 96-0 in the Senate, and with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House. This was followed in April by the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which passed 388-5 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. Indeed, the votes were so bipartisan that Democrats blocked another covid relief package until after Election Day -- because they did not want to let President Donald Trump claim credit for another bipartisan victory before voters went to the polls. But after he lost and they finally allowed another covid bill to come up for a vote in December, it passed both houses of Congress with similar margins.

For Biden, who promised to put his "whole soul" into uniting Republicans and Democrats, passing a bipartisan covid bill should have been a layup. I mean, Trump did it five times. But instead, the president has turned unity into division by using covid relief as a pretext to pass all sorts of liberal spending projects that have nothing to do with the pandemic. He did so even after 10 Republican senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, came to the White House and offered him a path to a filibuster-proof bipartisan majority. Not only did the president reject their offer, last week he actually tried to blame the senators, saying that "they didn't move an inch" from their initial proposal of $619 billion. That's a lie, the senators responded: Biden never gave negotiation a chance. "Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process of triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation," all 10 Republicans explained in a statement, adding that the White House "roundly dismissed our effort . . . in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy."

Now, Biden is trying to do the same thing when it comes to infrastructure. There has long been strong support among Republican leaders for an infrastructure package of as much as $1 trillion. But instead of uniting Republicans and Democrats around a bipartisan deal, Biden is using infrastructure as a pretext to spend more tax dollars on things that have nothing to do with infrastructure. A Politico analysis of his $2.25 trillion proposal found that only $821 billion, or 37 percent, is focused on traditional infrastructure items such as transportation, electricity and Internet. Add another $111 billion for clean drinking water, and that comes to $932 billion -- almost precisely the amount Republican leaders are on record supporting. Biden could easily win enough GOP support for an infrastructure package of this magnitude and pass it by a bipartisan, filibuster-proof majority.

But instead, he has loaded up his bill with another $1.32 trillion in spending that has little or no relation to infrastructure. For example, his proposal includes $400 billion to support expanded home care for seniors. This might be a worthy social program, but what does it have to do with infrastructure? On Fox News Sunday, Biden's National Economic Council director, Brian Deese, justified it as "the infrastructure of care" -- which is ridiculous. He's not alone. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., recently tweeted, "Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure." This is Orwellian. If Republicans had tried to tack on a $400 billion boost in defense spending as part of an infrastructure package and claimed that "defense is infrastructure," Democrats would have howled.

But Biden does not seem to care. Just like his covid package, he is trying to ram his infrastructure plan through Congress using the budget reconciliation process, which requires no Republican votes. The only obstacles he faces are within the Democratic caucus, from moderates who oppose the tax increases he has proposed, and progressives who think he does not spend enough.

How does Biden justify the hyperpartisan start to his presidency? Just as Democrats redefined "infrastructure," the president is now trying to redefine "bipartisanship." Biden recently declared, "I would like . . . elected Republican support, but what I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters." First, that is flat untrue -- in a recent Gallup poll, just 8% of Republicans approved of Biden's job performance. Second, that is not what Biden promised. He pledged to work "across the aisle to reach consensus." Instead, he's making the Trump presidency seem like a golden age of unity by comparison.

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Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

MARC A. THIESSEN COLUMN

Advance for release Friday, April 9, 2021, and thereafter

(For Thiessen clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

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By Marc A. Thiessen

WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced last Friday that "the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft" away from Atlanta. Apparently, Georgia's new election law -- whose net effect, The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog found, "was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them" -- was such a violation of baseball's values that the exhibition game could not be played there.

But apparently it wasn't a violation of baseball's values to hold an exhibition game in 2016 in Havana between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. In an interview with ESPN during that game, Manfred exulted how Cuba is "a place where we would want to play regularly" and that "at a minimum" he'd like to start playing regular-season games in Havana, and eventually have an MLB team based on the Communist island. "Baseball could be significant in terms of driving the economy and development here in Cuba," he said.

It didn't seem to bother Manfred that Cuba has long been home to one of the world's most brutal and repressive dictatorships. He pulled MLB out of Georgia because he said that baseball "opposes restrictions to the ballot box." Well, according to the State Department's human rights report released last month, "Cuba remains a one-party system in which the Communist Party is the only legal political party," voting is "neither free nor fair nor competitive" and "specialized units of the [Ministry of Interior's] state security branch are responsible for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing independent political activity." The regime engages in "extrajudicial killings, by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of political dissidents, detainees, and prisoners by security forces; . . . [and] arbitrary arrests and detentions."

Just two days before the 2016 game in Havana, hundreds of regime thugs attacked and arrested peaceful protesters known as the Ladies in White as they were leaving a Palm Sunday Mass. Raúl Castro's secret police pounced on the women as they chanted "Freedom! Freedom!" and "half-dragged, half-carried them to waiting buses," The Post reported. As the women were arrested, an organized pro-regime crowd hurled insults and chanted "This is Fidel's street!" Indeed, the Cuban regime carried out 526 political detentions in the first two weeks of March leading up to the game. But Manfred did not cancel the game in protest. Apparently playing baseball in the Castro family's tropical gulag is perfectly consistent with baseball's "values as a sport."

What else is consistent with baseball's values? The same week that MLB decided to leave Georgia, the league also announced a deal with Tencent, the Communist Party-linked Chinese telecommunications firm, to broadcast MLB All-Star Games as well as spring training, regular season and playoff games in Asia through 2023. In 2019, Tencent blocked the streaming of all NBA games featuring the Houston Rockets after the team's general manager expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Tencent is also the owner of the WeChat app, which is helping the Communist regime build a vast repository of data about Chinese citizens that the State Department said in 2019 forms "a foundation of technology-facilitated surveillance and social control." So under Manfred's leadership, Major League Baseball is willing to get in bed with a regime that brutally suppresses freedom in Hong Kong and carries out genocide against Uyghur Muslims -- including the use of Uyghur slave labor and the systematic rape and forced sterilization of Uyghur women -- but refuses to play an All-Star Game in Georgia.

"It's at the height of hypocrisy," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, R, told me in an interview. "The whole position on China with Major League Baseball . . . but also with MLB and their ties to Cuba. I mean, it makes an average Georgian who really doesn't pay attention to politics much wonder what are they thinking? Why are they punishing us, yet they are going to have relationship with China where there are no elections, or if they are, it's already predetermined who the winner's going to be?"

Manfred's decision was taken from a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance about the Georgia law, which actually expands early voting, mandates the use of drop boxes for the first time, and expands the forms of acceptable voter identification to include not just photo ID but a utility bill, a bank statement, a government check or paycheck, or even the last four digits of the voter's Social Security number. These are far less stringent rules than some of those in Major League Baseball, which requires a photo ID to pick up will-call tickets.

But Manfred cannot plead ignorance when it comes to the human rights records of Communist China and Cuba. He is perfectly willing to punish the people of Georgia in a flagrant exercise of virtue signaling, while doing business with two of the most repressive totalitarian dictatorships on the face of the Earth.

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Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

About
Marc Thiessen writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor.
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